Seven days in Mauritius #2

Monday, 5 March 2018

The second half of my week in Mauritius was as busy as the first, with more kind local contacts taking us out to experience some of the more hidden areas. On one of my favourite days of the trip, we took the jeep out to the sugarcane fields, driving through the nine foot tall leaves and avoiding the pre-harvest burn. We headed up to see a little patch of land where my mum's colleague is hoping to build his own house, then drove further on to see the Pont Natural. After watching in trepidation as tourists in extremely unsuitable footwear walked out onto the bridge for photographs, and having my drone dive-bombed by territorial seabirds, we moved on down the coast to the Souffleur. We drove past ruined chimneys and buildings swallowed up into the banyan trees, morphing into farmlands with stone walls like the ones you'd see in England; eventually, we reached the little rocky formation where the waves force jets of water into the air. Further on from this, through the glades, was the most beautiful beach I've ever seen - perfectly empty aside from a local fisherman and hoofprints from the cattle who make daily visits. From here we drove to a quiet local spot, a waterfall running straight off a little beach cliff, onto the crashing waves below. On our way home, our final stop was a huge old bridge over a canyon, the palm trees at the sides filled with parakeets and macaques, and the river running far below.

Whilst most of the week we spent exploring the countryside, we did venture into Mahebourg to buy pineapples at the bustling market, and visit the National History Museum - because I don't pass up a museum trip. The museum is a beautiful building, but it displays a much more unpleasant side of Mauritius' history - colonialism and the slave trade. The displays include everything from railway memorabilia and natural history specimens to colonial artefacts, and don't shy away from the realities of  what life was like for enslaved people (and later, indentured servants). We also booked a ride at a local stables, who look after ex-race horses. We arrived right in the midst of a torrential storm, and when it became clear it wasn't going anywhere, we just rode out. I've never experienced anything like it. It was warm, there was no wind, and no waves on the lagoon; just heavy rain and total silence apart from the sound of hooves on the sand and the quiet splashing of raindrops on the water.

On my final full day, we took the jeep and drove up the east coast, admiring the organised little gardens at the side of the road, stopping to photograph the bougainvillea and look at the mangroves. A feature I loved were the signs at the entrances of some of the villages, with kind reminders: Mahebourg's was 'speak softly and lovingly', and another I saw reminded visitors to 'help ever, hurt never'. We finished off the day with a trip down to the beach, collecting some washed up coral and watching the little pirogues (traditional wooden fishing boats) sailing past. All in all, it was a perfect week with one of my favourite people.

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